|322686. Wed Apr 23, 2008 6:37 am
|With regards to elves in the road in Iceland. I e-mailed the press spokesman from the Iceland Road Authority, and got back the following e-mail.
|Dear mr. Harkin
Stories on road construction and elves in Iceland
are exaggerated and not worth your time.
Attached is a Word file with an essay on the matter.
Foxes and reindeer have not been an issue in road planning in Iceland.
All the best from Reykjavik
Viktor Arnar Ingolfsson
Chief of Publishing Unit
(I asked about foxes etc, because I thought the Q could be:
What creatures most commonly block road building in Iceland?
However, the attached word file did have a couple of occurances of times when elves or fairies have been blamed for slight inconveniences in boulder removal. So, despite his angst, I think this could still be fair game. Below is the unedited word doc, what do people think??
|The Icelandic Road Administration (ICERA) and the Belief in Elves
by Viktor Arnar Ingólfsson, Chief of the Publishing Unit
The Icelandic Road Administration
In recent decades there have been a few alleged incidents of road construction intruding on elf settlements and cursed places. These problems have all been resolved in one way or another and can now be considered a thing of the past. The tales live on, however, both on the written page and orally and frequent questions on this topic come the way of the ICERA. Such queries may stem from journalists, students, professionals and scholars, both home and abroad. This essay is written is to explain this issue clearly since a lot of time goes into answering the same old questions.
It is hoped that this text will rectify the situation and it can be looked upon as the author's interpretation of the ICERA's view on the issue. It will not answer the question of whether the ICERA's employees do or do not believe in elves and "hidden people" because opinion differs greatly on this and it tends to be a rather personal matter. However, you may assume that the author severely doubts the existence of such phenomena.
Iceland's current road network extends some twelve thousand kilometres. Each year roadworks are carried out at a vast number of points and millions of cubic metres of solid and loose minerals are moved. Sometimes opinions differ on how something should be done, and the ICERA's employees try to reach an agreement with the locals on the best way to proceed. There may, however, be disagreements on the positioning of roads, bridge-crossings or gravel mines. It is often possible to reach some kind of agreement but sometimes the ICERA needs to take the bull by the horns and decide on a course of action which may not please certain people but in the end is in the best general interest. The environmental impact is assessed for many construction projects and everybody is given the opportunity to voice their opinions. It cannot be denied that belief in the supernatural is occasionally the reason for local concerns and these opinions are taken into account just as anybody else's would be. This is simply a case of good public relations.
We value the heritage of our ancestors and if oral tradition passed on from one generation to the other tells us that a certain location is cursed, or that supernatural beings inhabit a certain rock, then this must be considered a cultural treasure. In the days when the struggle with the forces of nature was harsher than it is now, conservation came to the fore in this folklore, and copses and beautiful natural features were even spared.
The reaction of the ICERA to these concerns has varied. Issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point whilst the elves living there have supposedly moved on. At other places the people in charge have seen no other solution than to continue the project against the wishes of certain individuals. There have been occasions when working arrangements have been changed slightly but at little extra expense. There is no denying that these stories of elves and cursed places have attracted the attention of the media. ICERA's employees have answered questions on this matter and have not ducked the issue. Nevertheless, the ICERA has never encouraged discussion on the matter nor brought it up since this could raise further ghosts.
Now it's time for the other side of the story. Rumours sometimes begin after something was originally said in jest but, as hearsay stories often do, they can go wildly out of control. Mishaps and accidents may occur in any construction project despite the measures taken to avoid them. It is a serious business when people try to pin the blame on evil curses and it's of no use to anyone, least of all to those involved in such accidents.
Even worse is when the curses are supposed to affect the relatives of those working on the project. The media should be careful of what they say here and not give such stories too much coverage. These kinds of unconfirmed rumours just aren't newsworthy. It's not unusual for people working at a place where such rumours started to begin attributing everything that goes wrong to an alleged curse. But everybody has their ups and downs in life and we all suffer blows, whether large or small, at some time or other. If we suffer some kind of loss and imagine we can link it to a cursed place or something similar, you should stop and ask when was the last time something equally bad happened and who was bothered that time.
There now follows a description of three events which took place in recent decades and which all received a certain amount of attention. They are short accounts gathered from written and oral sources. These sources are not named here as this is not being written as an actual history essay. It's mainly written for people interested in getting to know such stories so they can get to grips with the basic situation before delving deeper. The following examples are the only known cases involving the ICERA during this period.
At the end of the 1970s, preparations got under way for a new construction project, Road No.75, Saudárkróksbraut, over Hegranes in the Skagafjördur district of northern Iceland. The decision was made to build the road over Tröllaskard, The Trolls' Pass, and it was necessary to detonate some rocks in the pass in order to lower the level of the road.
The road was designed by an engineer from the ICERA and a team of local workers under the guidance of the service area supervisor was to complete the project. It so happened that the medium Hafsteinn Björnsson held a séance in Saudárkrókur during which the message appeared that the rocks in Tröllaskard must not be detonated as the site was cursed. This came as rather a surprise because the plans for the road were not known to many people and were not considered something that people would talk about. It's worth pointing out that Hafsteinn was renowned throughout the country as a medium and many people believed in his abilities and so his warning weighed rather heavily. There followed further warnings from seers and the area supervisor thought that it had all become a bit too much for him to solve. He then consulted his superiors in Reykjavík and the chartered engineers of the ICERA decided to call a meeting with Mr Björnsson to see what the problem was.
It's common for mediums, or those who talk through them, to pass on their messages to guests at a séance; the better the medium, the clearer the message. It seems as if Mr Björnsson managed to convince the people at the meeting of his talents because the engineers attempted to reach an understanding with the supernatural beings through the medium rather than disregard his warnings. However, the magic power did not belong to the same world as the one Mr Björnsson worked in, so no deal was reached. Before the year was out, and without having reached an understanding, Mr Björnsson was dead.
The situation deteriorated from this point on because although people had tried to keep the meetings in Reykjavík quiet, stories about the curse began to circulate amongst the roadworkers in Skagafjördur and many had become rather nervous. Amongst them was the site foreman who thought he had portentous dreams. He dreamed twice that he was visited by supernatural beings and he warned against disturbing anything in the pass. Then something started to go wrong with the bulldozer which was to move rocks at the bottom of the slope. At first its engine inexplicably broke down and then started to make the most peculiar noises even though there was nothing wrong with it. The bulldozer was removed from the job and another took its place and later completed the job without any further problems. People thought that the "hidden people" had had the chance to move away from the site.
To cut a long story short, the road was completed without any of the rocks being detonated. If you drive over the pass, it is rather obvious that the lie of the road is unnatural, the road being a testimony to the incident in which the ICERA's workers did their utmost to comply with the wishes of the seers. There have been no serious accidents on the road since it was laid and some people believe that the elves protect road-users as a reward for the consideration shown them.
Grásteinn in Grafarholt
In 1971 a new road was being built on the way north out of Reykjavík. The road is a part of the ring road, State Road No. 1. Previously, the road had been unsurfaced and followed the contours of the land but the new road was to be a modern, surfaced highway and would become a conspicuous landmark. Along the route of the new road there was a large, prominent rock known as Grásteinn (Grey Rock). The rock needed to be moved out of the road and whilst this was being done, stories began to circulate at the site that the rock was inhabited by elves and that accidents would befall anyone trying to remove it. An attempt was made to try and get to the bottom of these rumours but elderly people who had lived there for a time had never heard such stories. These stories had apparently been made up at the time of the construction project, probably by someone who was opposed to the work or just out of a sense of mischief. The rock was removed and left where it can still be seen in two parts, probably turned upside down from its original position. A newspaper article at the time reported some accidents for which the rock was blamed by some of the workers. The nature of the accidents was not revealed and other sources indicate that most of the mishaps occurred before the rock was removed.
One event from that period is, however, well documented. A machine operator who helped to move the rock had the misfortune of dismantling a water pipe leading to a fish farm. As a result 90,000 smolt were killed due to lack of oxygen and the financial loss was devastating. This came as a great shock to the operator involved and he later tried to find some reason for his misfortune. This is a natural reaction and something that most of us would probably have done in the same situation.
In 1999, two new lanes where added to this road and the rock was again in the way of the construction workers. The elf story is thirty years old and has become rather rooted in local folklore. Every so often the media bring it up and tour guides point the rock out on the way out of the city. The rock has, rightly or wrongly, been defined as an archaeological site and has been marked as such. However, permission was granted to move it and october 18 th. 1999 it was moved to a nice spot not far from its former location.
Klofasteinar (Cloven Rocks) at Ljárskógar
During the summer of 1995 a new stretch of Road No. 60, the Westfjords highway, was being laid around the property Ljárskógar, just north of the village of Búdardalur. It so happened that there was a large rock jutting out over the route of the new road and there was no option but to move the rock. The rock was a third of the Klofasteinar which in the old days had been a single huge slab of rock. The construction work on this road went very badly and machines broke down and there were a few minor accidents. Some local people knew the stories about elves inhabiting these rocks and considered it likely that they were to blame for all the troubles. The contractor then announced that he did not want to be responsible for moving the rock. As a result of press coverage of the issue, a woman got in touch with the ICERA's technical staff in the West Iceland Region. She had been born and raised in the area and was said to have the powers of a medium and she offered to resolve the issue. The woman went to the site and investigated the rock by laying her hands upon it. She announced that there weren't any elves in the rock which needed to be moved but there were some in the other Klofasteinar rocks whom she knew from her younger days. She then got permission from the elves to move the rock near to the other rocks if great care was taken. ICERA's workers moved the rock under the close supervision of the woman. According to the woman she wasn't the only supervisor as the rather worried elves were by her side the whole time. The move went well and there have been no further problems at the site.